In a very short space of time, the coronavirus has changed our lives. Hopefully for the short term, but who knows at this point!
Changes to how we live, connect and work have thrown up a whole new lifestyle for many. If you’re used to working in an office and now find yourself working at home, you may be forgiven if your productivity has dropped.
Not because you’re constantly distracted by Facebook or Twitter (nudge, nudge, wink, wink), but because it does take some adjustment.
Here at CubeSquared, many of our team already work from home every day, so it hasn’t been as much of a change for most of us, but that’s not to say there haven’t been some teething problems.
If you’re unsure how to manage your day or stay focussed from the comfort of your home whilst wearing your PJs, we’ve got some ideas to help you stay productive whilst also staying safe physically AND mentally.
1. BE DISCIPLINED
When you’re at the office, under normal circumstances, you’re always going to be more focused. It’s a place of work with business to be done. When you find yourself at home, there are so many more distractions. There just is.
You might have the family at home, there’s a TV there, a kitchen full of food and any number of other time-sucking devices. To be more productive at home, it’s vital you discipline yourself to strike a balance between your work and home life.
The first thing to help with this is to find yourself a place to work. If you’ve got a home office, then that’s perfect, but not everyone has. Even if you have to use the dining table or bedroom dressing table, having a dedicated workspace is vital to focus your mind.
With a house full of distractions, discipline is key. Avoid putting on the TV (even for just background noise) as you will get sucked in (yes, you will!). Whilst it’s understandable to want to keep up-to-date with the news, the 24-hour rolling news cycle means that it never ends, so avoid that too.
Remember that you are at work, so try to mirror your usual working day as much as you can. Take breaks at break-time, lunch at lunchtime and log off (and mentally switch off) at the end of the working day. It takes practice, but it’s so worth it.
2. BE COMFORTABLE
When you find your little working nook at home, it’s crucial that you’re going to be comfortable long-term. Sitting hunched on the bed or balanced precariously on a kitchen stool might be OK for sending or reading an email or two, but it’s going to kill your back if you stay there throughout the day.
If working from home is completely new to you, you might not have the ideal ergonomic set-up, but finding a comfortable chair and a desk/table to work on will really help. Ideally, it will be an office chair, but if not, find one with an adjustable back if possible. If that’s not possible, you can use a cushion or pillow to offer some lumbar support.
3. BE SECURE
This is something that may or may not be applicable to you, depending on the kind of business you work in, but it’s certainly something you should consider. Given the amount of data that you’ll be accessing remotely and how sensitive that information might be, utilising a VPN (or Virtual Private Network) may be what you need.
Most domestic Wi-Fi networks won’t be as secure as the one you use in the office, so securing the data you use is an important consideration. Using a VPN means that the IP address of your computer, phone or tablet is changed.
You can amend it so it looks like you’re back in the office, at least electronically. It also means that any connections are encrypted so the data flowing back and forth is secure. When you’re dealing with sensitive information, it’s a step you need to take.
Most App Stores will allow you to download VPN software, or your business’s IT department may be able to install one for you remotely. Check with them first as there may be specific settings you’ll need to connect.
4. BE CONNECTED
When you’re used to working in an office with your colleagues, the tools for keeping in touch or working collaboratively might be limited. Because you’re all in the same place, you may not be used to working on different systems or software. With this new working climate, it might be a good idea to utilise tools that promote collaboration and encourage contact.
Again, you may need to speak to your IT department lead first, but there are some amazing pieces of software you can use easily and for free that will help you work from home.
In terms of connecting to your colleagues, video conferencing tools like Skype, Zoom and FaceTime are great. You can have multiple people on the same call (assuming your WiFi is up to it) so you can easily connect and talk about any projects you’re working on together.
Collaboration is a key part of any working environment. That’s fine when you’re all in the office, so when you’re not, things need to change.
Slack is a fantastic collaborative tool for working together, even if people work for different companies. We use it already here at CubeSquared to work on a number of projects. Think of it as part email, part instant messaging, part file sharing but fully collaborative.
Productivity suites like Microsoft Office 365, Google Docs or even Apple’s own range of programs (Pages, Keynote and Numbers) now allow for sharing, so people can work on the same file in real-time, without the need to send it out to people for comment or review.
5. BE ACTIVE
As we touched on earlier, it’s important you take breaks from work. When you’re used to working in a dynamic office environment with the opportunity to have a change of scene throughout the day, working from home can begin to feel a bit like cabin fever.
Seeing the same four walls all day every day (even when you’re not working) can start to feel oppressive, so mix things up.
When you take a break, don’t just stop working and check Twitter for a bit. Take the opportunity to go for a walk outside, even if it’s just around the garden or make a cuppa in the kitchen and drink it somewhere else.
Most countries are limiting how much time you can spend outside and why, but if it’s safe to do so, try and get outside as much as possible. Getting some fresh air in your lungs and staying physically active will help you focus on work.
It will also benefit you, especially if you live alone, to go out and see other people (whilst also maintaining social distancing) and interact with them. Pop to the shops if you can, go for a walk, or a run and vary your working day.
We’re all going to be spending a lot of time inside in the coming weeks and months, so mixing up how you spend your day will help enormously.
SQUARING THE CIRCLE
Working from home has become the new normal for many people. How long will it last, who can say, but with these simple tips you can make the most of the situation we find ourselves in and stay productive.
It’s going to be tough for most businesses to keep their heads above water, so everything we can do to protect our companies is going to be important.
Have any of these tips helped you stay productive during lockdown? Have you got any tips of your own that we haven't mentioned? Let us know in the comments below.
If you want to get in touch with us at CubeSquared, the links to do so are all below. We’d love to know what you’re doing to adapt to working from home, so if you have any ideas that have worked for you or your business.
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Blog photo courtesy of Chris Montgomery via Unsplash